Baseball falls to Columbia in Ivy League Championship Series

by Gayne Kalustian | 5/11/14 5:04pm

NEW YORK — Despite scoring first in both games, the baseball team ended its season in New York this weekend exactly as it did last year, falling to Columbia University in the best of three Ivy Championship Series. The Lions (27-17, 15-5 Ivy) took the Big Green (18-21, 11-9 Ivy) 6-2 in game one and 4-1 in game two of a Saturday doubleheader. The loss on enemy turf represents the fourth in a row for the team, leaving the four seniors — Louis Concato ’14, co-captain Jeff Keller ’14, co-captain Dustin Selzer ’14 and Ryan Toimil ’14 — without the gratification of a League title in their careers.

“We always start every year aiming for the Ivy Championship,” Louis Concato said. “It was a little tougher this year than past years to get there, but we still had the expectation of winning.”

Columbia threw its ace, senior David Speer, in game one of the series. Speer racked up a 1.06 ERA in regular season conference play, putting him at second place in the Ivy League. Mike Concato ’17 took the start for the Big Green.

Both teams managed a run in the first but a three-run fourth for the Lions — prolonged by a fly ball that third baseman Nick Lombardi ’15 lost in the sun and subsequent balk by Mike Concato that put two runners in scoring position — damaged Dartmouth’s ability to hang tight with the Lions.

After Dartmouth scored one run in the fifth, catcher Adam Gauthier ’16, was called out at home having slid wide of Columbia’s backstop Mike Fischer, who completely covered the plate. An uproarious coach Bob Whalen visited the umpire in protest.

Two runs charged to Michael Danielak ’16 late in the game put game one at its final 6-2 score. Speer went for eight innings, striking out seven and throwing 116 pitches.

“He’s probably going to be pitcher of the year,” Keller said. “I have to give credit to him. He pitched great. You can’t expect to score six runs on a guy like that.”

Speer opened the ninth by hitting Thomas Roulis ’15 with a pitch and was relieved by sophomore George Thanopoulos, who gave up a single to Selzer before retiring the next three in the order.

Rain delays pushed game two to a 3:30 start, inaugurated by a two-strikeout inning for Big Green starter Duncan Robinson ’16. Columbia’s Kevin Roy struggled to control his early pitches, walking Lombardi and Patterson back-to-back in the second and finding himself behind in six of the first nine at bats.

Dartmouth’s only run came in the third when Parisi singled into center before being moved over by a flawless sacrifice bunt Keller, by the leadoff man. Taking third on a wild pitch, Parisi scored the run off of a base hit by Roulis two batters later.

A second three-run fourth inning put Columbia in the lead for good, created in part by a short throw from Lombardi at the hot corner to Selzer on first to open the inning and a two-run home run from the Lions’ rightfielder Gus Craig.

After more rain delays, Robinson finally left the mound after 7.2 innings, having thrown 103 pitches and striking out seven batters. At his peak in the game, Robinson retired 12 batters in a row. Louis Concato came in for the final 1.1 innings of the game while Thanopoulos was called from the pen for the second time to close for the Lions. The Big Green bats could not get a runner past first base.

From the start of the season, Dartmouth encountered unexpected challenges and fought from behind to win its seventh straight Red Rolfe Division Title. The team revamped its rotation after the loss of four 2013 starters and was rocked again in the winter by the loss of Thomas Olson ’15 — who had a 1.15 ERA out of the pen last year — and yet again at the end of the regular season with the loss of first starter Beau Sulser ’16 to injury. The rotation which struck out the fewest number of batters in the Ivy League, was populated by one freshman, three sophomores and Louis Concato, the only returner from last season’s rotation. Columbia, by contrast, returned both its starters from the 2013 Championship Series. Robinson had the third lowest ERA in conference play, with a 1.29 regular season mark, and tied Yale University’s Chris Lanham for the most wins in the season. Mike Concato, who began the season with an impressive outing against the Kansas Jayhawks, closed the regular season with back-to-back shutouts before taking the first start in the Championship Series.

“We had a bunch of guys that were unexperienced,” catcher Matt McDowell ’15 said. “We weren’t sure how they would handle the pressure. As it ended up turning out, they were some of our most consistent players.“

On offense, Selzer and Keller have pointed out all season long that the Big Green struggled at the plate. The team’s overall batting average from the regular season came out to be .273, the lowest since the team emerged as kings of the Red Rolfe Division seven years ago. Despite the team’s frustration in the box, no team in the League racked up a higher batting average overall in the regular season. In conference play, Dartmouth had the most triples, home runs and total bases, thanks to strength in the middle of the order found in Selzer — the sixth highest batting average in conference regular season play — and Lombardi — the second highest slugger and total bases leader in conference play. Keller, fourth overall in batting average in total regular season play, took home a Dartmouth varsity record this season, banging out over 50 doubles in his career.

The team, only losing four seniors, is in a good position to move forward as a program, though the seniors have been significant contributors this season.